Rock Dove and Feral Pigeon

Columba livia



Feral Pigeons are descendants of the wild Rock Dove. The wild form of the species is blue-grey; the back and upperwings are pale grey, the rump is white, the breast has a dark pinkish tinge, the tail has a dark tip, and it has dark wingbars. The breast and the head are the darkest parts and there's a shiny purple and green section on the side of the neck. Feral birds vary greatly in colour, though they can appear very similar to the Rock Dove. The spectrum goes from pure white to almost uniform black, with many greys and browns in between. When flying, birds are white beneath the wing, and the white rump and dark trailing wing-edge are visible.


The Rock Dove traditionally prefers to be near the sea, breeding in rocky habitats including caves and cliffs. Feral Pigeons make use of the food and building nest-sites of towns and cities.


The Rock Dove is a timid bird that flies quickly, with periods of gliding and wheeling. The Feral Pigeon is sociable and has a long history of domestication. It has an uncanny sense of direction, which is the reason it's been used in homing and message carrying. The birds have also been part of human diets.


Diet includes crops such as wheat, barley and oats, peas, and seeds of plants such as wild radish, shepherd's purse, dock and buttercup. Feral birds eat what they can fine in populated areas, though are mostly vegetarian.


Egg-laying occurs throughout the year, but is most abundant in spring and autumn. There are usually 2 eggs per clutch, and birds may lay several clutches a year. Both adults incubate the eggs for approximately 17 days; young are fed by bird's crop and can fly after about 35-37 days.


It is difficult to census the wild Rock Dove, but it is though that over 550 000 pairs are in the UK and 50 000 in Ireland. They don't move far from their breeding sites.

Observation Tips

Feral Pigeons are abundant, but it may be a challenge to make a distinction between them and the wild Rock Dove. Rock Doves prefer untamed coasts, particularly in the north and west of the region, while Feral Pigeons can usually be found in large numbers in many towns and cities.


Has a soft display call: 'oroo-roo-cooo', and a variety of cooing sounds.
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